Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Queen Of Spades- Part 10

Dust rose from the ground as the two soldiers charged at each other, swords raised. One ducked faster than wind and the blade shone in all elegance. Velunachi smiled from her perch atop the grounds in the upper balcony. She always loved to watch the soldiers- specially her 'Udaiyal' pirivu- womens' wing. She fondly remembered Udaiyal- her warrior daughter whom she held as her own blood. Slowly her thoughts revolved over the Marudhu brothers and Kuyili. Those three friends from Ramnad who had stood by her in every tempest- giving her strength and courage all through. 

Thinking of Marudhu brothers, she watched Kuyili. The dusky damsel stood transfixed, watching the soldiers on the horses fighting each other. Velunachi knew of the weird love triangle- the love Kuyili had for Chinna Marudhu and the secret flame Periya Marudhu held for her. Kuyili seemed oblivious to his charms and Velunachi knew why. Kuyili was besotted with the younger Marudhu. Many a times Velunachi had tried and failed to reason out with the younger Marudhu, but he held to his ground that he never felt anything for Kuyili. Periya Marudhu, the introvert, hid his feelings for Kuyili as usual and this hide and seek was getting weirder day by day. When prodded on wedding, Chinna Marudhu held his ground saying he wanted to marry only on touching the freed land- Sivagangai free of British. 
Marudhu brothers
Sivagangai was now under total control of the British who in turn gave the Nawab of Arcot, their allaince partner, the right to collect taxes from the people. It had been eight long years since the King Muthuvaduganathar was slain and the Queen was unheard of. She was last seen in the forests of Virupakshi long time back. The people had lost all hopes that the Queen would come back for the country. Little did they know that their valiant Queen was preparing an army and allies to fight the intruders. Yet they refused to pay taxes to Nawab of Arcot. Hyder Ali had returned to Mysore and Gopala Naicker was busy training his Palayam's soldiers with gun power and artillery. The Dutch were supporting Velunachi by providing know how in handling guns and producing gun powder.

Amassing the army, training the women soldiers, forging alliance with Gopala Naicker and Hyder Ali, Velunachi had played her game well and was waiting for almost eight years for the right time to bear fruit. The Nawab of Arcot was tired of ruling Sivagangai- the people who failed to pay their taxes. He paid no attention to the state anymore and was more intent on saving his Arcot Kingdom than ruling a lawless land. The British East India Company was unhappy with the lack of taxes from Sivagangai and moved their concentration on Kattabomman and his much greener pasture of Tirunelveli. Velunachi sensed now was the right time. 

The plan was to capture the outposts in Sivagangai Fort first, taking control of the watch towers, blowing the gun powder store and finally launch the attack. Discussing with the allies made Velunachi feel elated. Marudhu brothers were locked in a deep discussion with Gopala Naicker as Velunachi moved from the table for a breather. Sensing someone behind the curtains, she drew her knife. In a swift movement, Kuyili came before her, curtsying and left abruptly. Velunachi was worried about Kuyili these days- she remained aloof in the discussions and tried to be distant. Something worried her and she intended to find out what irked her friend. But first things first, she had a battle plan to look into.

All set and ready, the force of 6000 men and 6000 women started their march from Dindigul to Sivagangai Fort that night. Marudhu brothers led the men on horsebacks and Vleunachi marched with them, hoisted on her favorite horse, dressed in her usual man- boy attire. Udaiyal lead the women contingent- all dressed like men, the women of valor. Gopala Naicker joined the group from Virupakshi with his men and artillery. As per plan, they had preferred a pre-dawn strike. The unsuspecting guards at the outposts fell without a fight and gaining control of the watch towers was an easy task for the Marudhu brothers who lead from the forefront.
Remains of gun powder room built by British in Channapatna, enroute Bangalore to Mysore
Now was the turn of blowing up the gun powder store- locating it was not that hard, one of the captured men himself lead them to the store. The locals willingly joined the forces and fought the Nawab's men and handful of British who were taken by surprise. Velunachi clambered along the Sivagangai tank watching the gunpowder store. The women who had gathered there were cheering, clapping and shouting vehemently as a slender figure doused in oil ran towards the store with a fire torch in her right hand. 

Intrigued, Velunachi stilled and tried to comprehend the scene before her. The figure turned back once, waved and saw Velunachi perched atop her horse. Seeing her, Velunachi stood shocked, chilled to her bone. With a gracious wave and nod at her, Kuyili set herself on fire and jumped inside the powder store. The store exploded shooting above sprays of fire balls and complete mayhem ensued. Velunachi stared at it in utter disbelief and shock. Kuyili had exploded into a hundred pieces....her Kuyili. 

To be continued...
p.s.: Kuyili was the first human suicide bomb in Indian history. Remember, the  Poligar War of Sivagangai took place in 1780!
p.p.s.: Cyclone Neelam is wreaking havoc as i am writing this post. My favorite teak tree has been taken down and rains still lash the windows. Please pray for the safety of our people.
p.p.p.s: I am down with the bug- throat infection and the Mister is having a grand gala time, vetoing all decisions at home:'(

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Queen Of Spades- Part 9

He hated this heat. The sun was scorching mercilessly on his weather beaten face and he disliked the sweat trickling down his shoulder blades. All sticky and dusty, he longed for the cool confines of Mysore. Dindigul and this fort on the hillock just was misery. But resting here, far away from Mysore had him safe, tucked away from the prying British. 

Completing his namaz, he swiftly rose from the prayer rug, closing his eyes and stared long and hard towards Holy Kaba. Mecca! Some day, he would go there. Now that his son Tippu was caring for his homeland, he would one day visit Persia and the Holy Land. Hyder Ali, the Nawab of Mysore one one day perform his rites.
Hyder Ali- Nawab of Mysore
Mehboob Khan strode towards him in careful guided steps and cleared his throat. One look at his face said he was amused by something and Hyder Ali, could not repress his knowing smile. " Salam, Nawab. You have visitors. They are from nearby Sivagangai Kingdom. And funny enough, they have been ousted by the British", he informed. "Let them in", Hyder Ali ordered and slouched further down on his throne. The day was not at all progressing as he had planned. He needed his beauty sleep and this tiny contingent was out to spoil it. Irritation spanned his wrinkled face as he scowled at the people who filed in behind Mehboob Khan.

His eyes were scrutinising her with guided distance, irritation etched in his face was clear. They were quite unwelcome, she understood. But Velunachi had travelled two days, braving the humidity and the unnerving presence of British soldiers stationed everywhere. Dusty, sweaty and dirty, she itched for a shower, but first things first. "Salam Nawab Saheb", she bowed. It took no time for Hyder Ali to sit straight from his reverie and notice the man- boy before him. The voice was certainly not manly, the dress was definitely no give away. Who was this? His interests perturbed, the Nawab watched.

As the fluent Urdu flowed from the pink and lush lips, Nawab Hyder Ali was left with no doubt- this was someone special, very special. He knew instantly it was a woman and asking someone hooded to remove the garb and show the face was against his religious belief. He listened in rapt attention as the woman continued in her mellifluous voice. Whatever she had to say, can wait. She looked like she could use some sleep and food. 

Summoning the guards, the Nawab ordered a feast and bade the weary team some rest in the Fort. From all the information he could gather, the Nawab understood the contingent from Sivagangai had come asking for help. Help against the British? By God, he would! He had retreated from Mysore giving reins to the able hands of his son- Tippu Sultan and now he had nothing to worry. He would teach the British a lesson. 

Velunachi loved the serenity and the comfort of the cool stone walls of the Dindigul Fort. She had sent word through Udaiyal to Gopala Naicker, the King of Virupakshi. Hyder Ali wanted to strike against the British, but he needed to plan carefully. His agent Chanda Sahib ruled over the eighteen palayams around Dindigul, including Virupakshi, but dis not want to enter the warpath with the British without foolproof plan and sufficient manpower. 
Gopala Naicker Memorial- Virupatchi
Velunachi was permitted to stay in Dindigul or Virupakshi Palaces with her consorts by Hyder Ali. Gopala Naicker, King of Virupakshi who already had locked horns with the British over Virupakshi had willingly submitted himself to Chanda Sahib, the brother-in-law of Hyder Ali. He was sure the Nawab would stand by his brother-in-law and fight the British till the end. Velunachi now had all the time in the world- she had the support of Hyder Ali and Gopala Naicker. She just needed men and women for her army. Most importantly, women- a force that was untapped so far. Women force- formidable and lethal. She would show them!

To be continued...

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Queen Of Spades- Part 8

The afternoon sun blazed mercilessly and the goats sauntered gleefully to the shadows of the huge banyan tree. Udaiyal loved to watch the goats scrape each other for the little shadow left. It is always a fight for everyone. Not even the goats are spared, she thought lazily and surveyed the distant boulders for Kannaiyan. Poor fellow, if he were alive now, he would definitely be nursing his wounded back at some quack back in the village. A lazy smile lit up her face, as she remembered the encounter with the village chieftain this morning. 

Udaiyal had been orphaned when she was a little girl, taken care of then by the shepherd who found her in the woods, wailing her little lungs out. He took her as his own, gave her all the little worldly knowledge he could and in turn, Udaiyal took care of his treasure- his goats. Udaiyal grew up a smart and beautiful woman who knew the ways of the world and was very wise for her age. This morning, poor Kannaiyan had tried to follow her to the woods and harassed her as usual. Today he had crossed the limits- it had been too much beyond Udaiyal's patience that was wearing thin day by day. She had sluiced his back with the sickle, totally unexpected and he had ran back to the village yelping in pain. Served him right, she thought ruefully. He would never raise his finger against hapless orphans.

She was absorbed in her thoughts that she failed to notice the unrest among the goats. They looked troubled and she sensed fear. Something was not right. They looked towards the boulders and bleated uncomfortably. Gathering her sickle and valari, she cautiously walked towards the clearing. Her eyes met jet black eyes, deep with rage at her intrusion. 

Kuyili's gaze locked steadily with Udaiyal and she took instant liking to the fire and spirit of the girl. Sizing up the horses and the haggard looking men, Udaiyal sensed trouble. "Who are you people and what are you doing here, in this part of the jungle?", she queried cautiously. " This I must ask you, lady", clipped Kuyili. The two glared at each other with animosity and Velunachi glanced at them, quite amused. 

Listening to the story on how their beloved King was ensnared, trapped and killed by the British, Udaiyal shook with rage. She felt sorry for the poor Queen Velunachi and her trusted aides, now on the run like vagabonds. She vowed secretly to help them. There started a revered friendship- a friendship between an overthrown Queen and a shepherd. Udaiyal ran errands for the small band of men. Marudhu brothers joined them soon and the group swelled in numbers.  Hiding a small army of men within the confines of jungle was not an easy task and Udaiyal felt the pressure as Kannaiyan sought her in private soon. She knew he had some idea of what was happening, though she was very discreet. Yet, word had spread of her huge grocery buy and the large head loads she carried into the jungle.

The sun was setting beautifully and Udaiyal clambered along the hillside, carrying the rug-sack on her shoulder, wincing. Kannaiyan followed her at a safe distance. Unusual ruffling of leaves brought Velunachi up from her reverie and she surveyed the forests from above the tree where she was perched. Her eyes immediately settled on Kannaiyan following Udaiyal unawares and she  hooted thrice. Marudhu brothers swung into action hearing the hoots and in no time, Kannaiyan was overpowered, thrown to the ground and pinned by the formidable duo. Eyes blazing with anger, Velunachi reached the restrained man and eyed him with thorough disgust. "Tie him to the horses  face down and throw him away into the jungle", she grunted. 

Udaiyal, so happy to be safe finally from the chieftain, invited the group to the village. After almost a week toiling in the forests, the group left for Virupakshi village and remained there, amassing men and materials for the army. That was when Velunachi commissioned her own group of dedicated women soldiers- named " Udaiyal pirivu" named after her beloved Udaiyal, the girl whom she considered her adopted daughter! And now came the ripe time- payback time! Marudhu brothers came from Dindigul with the happy news that Velunachi had been waiting for months- King Hyder Ali had camped in Dindigul! Now was her chance!